[Click on image to enlarge it]Centre stage - literally - at the Marlborough and District Branch of the Embroiderers' Guild exhibition at the Kennet Valley Hall in Lockeridge, are the embroidered squares members were asked to make to mark the branch's fortieth birthday.
Preparing for the Ruby Birthday last autumn, Chairman Yvonne Miles challenged members to create ten inch squares using ruby red with a splash of another colour. The results are stunning as a mass exhibit - and intriguing as you look more carefully at the individual squares.
In some ways this extensive exhibition charts embroidery's progression from complex stitching towards what they now call 'textile art' - using many different techniques and materials. Although this still uses many basic embroidery methods and stitches - it can provide a freer and more liberating creative inspiration.
Indeed there is some talk of trying to persuade the central Embroiderers' Guild organisation to change its name to reflect this wider use of new and different techniques and the growing appeal of 'textile art'.
On permanent display in the Kennet Valley Hall is the Guild's 'Upper Kennet Valley Embroidery' - the Hall is where the branch holds its monthly meetings. For this exhibition another major work has been loaned by the Friends of Savernake Hospital. In 1981 Marlborough area embroiderers created a striking display depicting great and influential women - details pictured below.
Coco Chanel Barbara Hepworth Amy Johnson
The hanging was created by a group of ladies under the guidance of a tutor, Kay Norris, who taught at Chippenham College. But further than that little is known about the hanging - and branch members are keen to find out more. If anyone has any information about the origins of this hanging they are asked to contact the Branch.
Thirty-five years later the choice of women and the techniques used give us a fascinating glance back in time. It certainly begs the question who would the members choose for a repeat performance next year and what would a new display look like?
Detail of Nichola Vesey Williams' 'New York, New York'The branch has a Young Embroiderers Group with members between six and eighteen years.
Their 'Tree of Hands' in the exhibition [detail at left] is really eye-catching and shows a strongly imaginative use of materials.
One wonders how 'embroidery' and 'textile art' will have developed by the time the branch celebrates its fiftieth anniversary.
The exhibition is open today (Sunday, April 24) and on Monday till 4.30pm. Full details here.
David Dudley and Open Studios chairman Lisi AshbridgeIt has been a year of tumbling records for 2016’s Marlborough Open Studios, a preview of which opened to the public this morning (Friday).
The scheme, now in its 21st year, has finally reached the milestone of exhibiting 80 artists, while the geographical boundaries of ‘Marlborough’ have been stretched to encompass Rowde (west of Devizes), Radley Bottom (east of Hungerford), Hodson (north of Chiseldon) and Tedworth House, south of Tidworth.
And eager collectors are already snapping up art. Even before the preview show at Marlborough College’s Mount House Gallery – where price tags range from £40 to £5,000 – had opened to the public, 18 pieces were sold at a VIP evening hosted by lead sponsor David Dudley.
Sioban Coppinger and mayor Margaret Rose with Spring in Step, a shoe of ash leaves in cast bronzeHis company designs its own jewellery and sources distinctive pieces from across the UK and Europe.
Art, he told his guests, is all around us “and we are lucky to have so many artists of great national acclaim” in the Marlborough area.
Among the guests at last night’s VIP launch was mayor Margaret Rose who, with her late husband Bernard, ran an art gallery in Ramsbury. She snapped up a painting of an owl by Burbage-based wildlife artist Debbie Blount.
Simone Dawood with Hackpen Rape. Her abstract landscapes are inspired by dog walks along the RidgewayAnother purchased piece was an intricate textile sculpture by royal milliner and first-time exhibitor Jane Corbett, who will be showing with photographer Deborah Husk at Alton Priors.
Open Studios chairman Lisi Ashbridge was at pains to point out the extensive range of art on offer: from massive sculptures by blacksmith Melissa Cole, whose forge and studio is on the A4 midway between Marlborough and Froxfield, to intricate pieces of jewellery by first-timer Theresa Hing, from East Garston across the Berkshire border, and a miniature representation of the houses on The Green at Aldbourne, made in driftwood by Baydon artist Kareen Jackson.
Practitioners in oils, watercolours, pencil, ink and charcoal, join sculptors, glass workers, wood turners, photographers, ceramicists and calligraphers in throwing open their doors across 42 locations.
Jenny Arthy is teaching art to wounded soldiers at Help for Heroes HQ Tedworth House as part of their therapy. Fittingly, one of her drawings features a knight on horseback fighting a dragonEvery year the Open Studios committee grants a bursary to an emerging artist, and this year the bursary has been awarded to wounded soldiers Martin Wade and Richey Burnett, who are following a City & Guilds course in painting at Tedworth House - HQ of the charity Help for Heroes - under the tutelage of Jenny Arthy.
The Open Studios preview show runs from 10am until 5pm on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and from 10am until 3pm on Tuesday.
The Open Studios art trail is held over the first four weekends in July. For details, log on to www.marlboroughopenstudios.co.uk
Kausikan RajeshkumarThe April recital in the ‘Brilliant Young Pianists at Saint Peter’s Church’ series was given by Kausikan Rajeshkumar, who was born in London in 1990. Kausikan was offered scholarships at both the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music, but chose to read music at Cambridge graduating with a first class honours degree.
He was one of the piano finalists in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competitions in 2006 and 2008, before winning the International Franz Liszt Prize for Young Pianists in 2009. Among his many engagements in Great Britain and elsewhere in Europe, he performed in the Royal College of Music ‘s ‘Rising Stars’ series at the Cadogan Hall.
He began his Marlborough recital with JS Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No.18 which was published in the first volume of his ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’. Written in a minor key, the work is sombre and reflective.
Brilliantly crafted, the first movement is a rising thematic figure passed from one hand to another, and played with such clarity as to clearly expose the structure of the movement. The stately fugue that followed was played with feeling and delicacy - the notes flowing seamlessly from Kausikan’s hands.
This was followed by a late Beethoven Sonata: No.30 in E Major. What a contrast in tonality. The bright major key creating a dramatically different mood from the Bach. The first movement is lyrical and flowing, creating a sense of tenderness which is suddenly shattered by the demotic opening chords of the powerful prestissimo.
The last movement begins with a wonderful plangent melody, surely one of the finest that Beethoven wrote.
This then heralds a series of variations of increasing complexity, one of which is so rich in counterpoint as to be reminiscent of JS Bach. Finally calm is restored and the initial melody returns, lovingly and gently played, Kausikan’s whole body enfolded in the music. This was a performance of great intensity and passion.
The second half of the concert was largely devoted to Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestucke (Fantasy Pieces.) These were inspired by a series of novellas written by the German author Hoffman and were dedicated to a young Scottish pianist. The eight miniatures are very varied, some are reflective and elegiac, others more agitated and passionate.
The wind can be heard gently rustling in the trees in ‘In der Nacht’ while ‘Traumes Wirren’ is a joyous and effervescent riot of notes. ‘Ende von Lied’ begins in great solemnity and then appropriately, dies away to nothing. Kuasikan played these with grace and sensitivity, highlighting the contrast in mood, but always retaining the emotional intensity which these pieces demand.
Two pieces of Chopin completed the programme. The Etude Opus 10 No. 8 is a showy piece, requiring great skill from the pianist. This was fireworks from beginning to end - Kausikan’s hands racing up and down the keyboard in an endless cascade of notes. It was played with consummate skill and confidence.
The Polonaise-Fantasie Opus 61 is quite different. Said to be one of the finest of Chopin’s works, it is a profound and very complex piece, gentle and nostalgic for the most part with a lovely lyrical and calm middle section. The contrast between the fiery outbursts and the reflective and serene moments was beautifully articulated.
It was a lovely concert with a rich variety of musical styles, and there were many who thought that this was the best they had heard in the series. Kausikan played with musicality, passion and confidence demonstrating a deep understanding of each composer’s intentions. We wish him well in his career.
Front L to R: Rhys Rowlands (Brit), Emma Doyle (Meat), Will Sexton (Galileo) & Rosie Amos (Scaramouche) - with dancersWow! They filled the stage with dancers, they filled the Theatre on the Hill with music and they filled its seats with very enthusiastic audiences.
This was a highly ambitious production by St John's Academy of the school version of the very adult musical We Will Rock You - and it came off with great aplomb and a display of some truly amazing local talents.
Based on the music of Queen, it tells of a time in the future when the biggest of the big multinational technology corporations has taken over the world (renamed here as iPlanet) and for some weird reason has outlawed the making of music - leaving the young to rely on boring old Radio Ga Ga (cue, of course, for another memorable Queen song.)
Enter Galileo Figaro - or Gazza for short - who has in his head a sort of archaeologist's collection of shards of pop music and broken bits of lyrics from times past. And who refuses to conform.
He is played by Will Sexton, who left St John's last year and is spending a year gaining stage experience before going to drama school. For this production he doubled as Acting Director.
He has a wonderful voice, which made the most of both the quieter and the more raucous Queen numbers. And he had great fun with the odd words and phrases from all those barely remembered pop lyrics.
All the rest of the cast - and the 34-strong dance troupe and the nine-strong chorus - are current St John's students. And the director and producer of this triumph was Max Moore, the school's Director of Performance - who had a third role as pianist and conductor of the twelve-strong live band.
Galileo and Scaramouche Galileo gets arrested by the music police led by Khashoggi (Sam Austen in black leather - not Armani but M&S - and shades) under orders from Killer Queen (played on the night I watched by Chrissy Lightowler - a part shared with Tamlin Morgan.)
Arrested with Galileo is another cultural and dress-code refusnik who he names Scaramouche - another name of impeccable Queen ancestry. She was played by Rosie Amos.
This is a part that calls for careful and clever acting and great singing. Well, Ms Amos has great stage presence, confident movement and a grand voice - and she gave her character a depth I am pretty certain was not foreseen when the musical was written. She made the story work - especially her on-off-on-again love affair with Gazza.
Rosie Amos as ScaramoucheGalileo persuades Scaramouche to join the underground Bohemians' movement which is trying to revive the live music they long for. This was the school version, but innuendos and double entendres and some spicy language flew about - all quite in character - and gave Scaramouche some of the evening's best lines.
I did like the way our magazines were seen from the future as 'websites made of paper'. And I loved the repartee about dreams and when love dies: When your partner wakes up and tells you about your dream of a rabbit in a bowler hat cooking an omelette for you.
Ellen Trevaskiss as PopOne highpoint was the Seven Seas of Rhye pub with its bar full of youngsters who have had their brains emptied by the authorities and with barmaid Pop who had escaped, but was nonetheless pretty dippy and hippy.
Pop gave Ellen Trevaskiss a wonderful chance to entertain us and to sing with fine gusto.
There were several other highpoints: Killer Queen, living up to her name and laying waste a large number of young girls to Another One Bites the Dust. The tender duet sung by Will Sexton and Rosie Amos - with those telling lines "There's no place for us, there's no chance for us...Who wants to live for ever." There were also standout performances by Rhys Rowlands as Brit (that's Brit as, apparently, in Britney Spears) and Emma Doyle as Meat.
If anyone ever tells you again that the Theatre on the Hill has too small a stage and no proper wings, just run this production past them. The set design included a well-used raised walkway at the back of the stage. And called for wheel-on scenery of some complexity.
But more than that, the stage was filled from time to time with 24 dancers - sometimes GaGa Girls and sometimes not! (I think it was 24 but it was quite hard to count them as they moved so quickly between groupings and movements) The dancing was of a very high calibre.
You try athletic movements with that many fit young girls on a stage that size - with no one getting poked in the eye! They were brilliant and kept in perfect sync.
The boy dancers were that bit younger and showed their skills with some frenzied break dancing. The direction made the most of the theatre's space with actors tumbling off the stage and exiting through the audience.
The music was excellent and chorus sang clearly with some great Queen harmonies. Max More directed a humdinger of an evening even at one point adding a shouted intervention from his piano - much to the delight of students in the audience.
The Saturday sell-out performance was the last night of a run that was probably short enough for those with exams coming up, but too short for all those of the cast who were obviously enjoying the whole live stage experience so much.
Now the run is over I do not need to give readers a spoiler alert: after the curtain call, after the applause had finally died away and the stage had emptied, an offstage voice (Galileo, I think) suddenly said "We've left something out" - and back they came for the most amazing, spine tingling performance of Bohemian Rhapsody. Wow!
They filled the stage with dancers, lights and music [Photos by Max More] [Click on images to enlarge them]